THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

June 10, 2009

Fashion exhibitions summer 2009

 The Netherlands

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

on-line exhibition Accessorize, a selection from the accessories from 1550-1950

 Museum Bags and Purses  Amsterdam Beasty Bags – August 23

                                                                Made In Britain- September 7- February 21 2010

Arnhem Mode Biënnale  Arnhem – July 6

Zuiderzee museum Enkhuizen   Gone with the wind  -November 22

Kunsthal Rotterdam   Silk Stories Taisho Kimono  – June 21

Museum Boymans van Beuningen Rotterdam The Art of Fashion: Installing Allusions –September 19/ January 10 2010


Modemuseum Antwerp    Paperfashion  – August 16

Modemuseum Hasselt    In Her Shoes   -November 8


Museum Les Arts Décoratifs Paris  Madeleine Vionnet  June 24-January 31-2010

Museum Christian Dior Granville  Trois décennies de styles et de stars (1961-1989) -September 20

Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent – Paris    Russian Folk Costumes – August 30

Chateau de Versailles Trianon museum  Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies -June 27


Wien Museum Karlspltz Grand entrance Fashion in the Ringstraßen era June 10- November 1


Textile Museum St Gallen   Swiss Embroidery

Sicherer, Schöner, Schneller( Textile in Sport)

Musée Suisse de la Mode  Yverdon-Les Bains

Prototype (la technique du moulage) – November 1

more information about this exhibition  and even a video  about moulage


National Museum of Costume Dumfriesshire  Jane Muir a Fashion Icon -October 31

 United Kingdom

Manchester Art Gallery On-line exhibition collection themes

 Fashion Museum Bath   Dress of the Year –  September 20

                       Bill Gibb: A Personal Journey –  November 15

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art London  Workshop Missoni: Daring to be Different  – July 1- September 20


Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària in Barcelona Dressing the Body 


Kulturforum Potsdammer Platz Belin Sequins – Poses – Powder Boxes.
Fashion Drawings and Objects from the Twenties
  – August 9

Information about  Fashion Collections, Fashion Museums and Fashion Libraries in Germany


Röhsska Museum Göteborg 

Fashion Designer Maud Fredin Fredholm – 16 August

Masters Degree Exhibition 2009  – 16 August

Finland’s queen of fashion – VUOKK 31 January 2010


Museum of Fashion History of Buenos Aires  

Spanish link  for the collections and thumbnail pictures


Powerhouse museum Sydney   Contemporary Japanese fashion: the Gene Sherman Collection  – August 30


Textile Museum of The Cutting Edge  ( focuses on the shape of a garment, and what it signifies) –  July 7




FIT New York  Seduction – June 16

                       Isabel Toledo Fashion from the inside out   June 17-September 26

                      video tour of Isabel Toledo

                     preview Isabel Toledo exhibition

Chicago History Museum   Chic Chicago – July 26

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York  The Model as Muse – August 9

 Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum – New York Fashioning Felt – September 7

Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Los Angeles

On-line exhibition: Images of Fashion from the Court of Louis XIV

                                   A Century of Fashion highlights

                                Luxury Textiles East & West

Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, Penn.  Fashion in Film: Period Costumes for the Screen -August 9

 Kent  State University Museum Kent, Ohio   Michael Kors – November 2

The Ohio State University “The Sewer’s Art: Quality, Fashion and Economy” – June 27

Mint Museum of Art Charlotte, NC  The Art of Affluence: Haute Couture and Luxury Fashions 1947-2007 – June 30, 2010

wiki link

Philadelphia Museum of Art  Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850–1925  – October 25

Indianapolis museum of Art Fashion in Bloom-January 31, 2010

University Minnesota Goldstein museum of Design Gallery Intersections: Where Art and Fashion Meet – Juli 11-November 1

 Hong Kong

Heritage museum  The Golden Age of Couture  -September 28


Kobe Fashion Museum Japan

Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum Tokyo Japan


If you have other links for fashion exhibitions , please share so I can add them to the list.


May 7, 2009

FashioNext design competition

I followed the blog from The Chicago History Museum challenge FashioNext and feel this is worthwhile  to share with you. It is amazing what designers can do with upholstery/drapery fabrics.

FashioNext organized by the Chicago History museumIt’s here! The Museum’s first-ever fashion design competition–FashioNext. Eight Chicagoland designers will create couture garments inspired by Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum and one garment will be selected for inclusion in the exhibition.

Fashion next inspiration

Sketches made by the designers

Meet the designers

The three finalists

Working with Brentano fabrics (upholstery/ drapery fabrics)

See the designers in their studios

Finally the winner is

The winner’s design will be part of the exhibition Chic Chicago  Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum till July 26 2009

See for more information

April 30, 2009

Vionnet’s Legacy Lives On

The latest news from The Center for Pattern Design landed in my inbox recently. Located in beautiful St. Helena in northern California, the Center is a repository of all things related to pattern. Patterns and tools are available thru the website, and older sewing and pattern design texts are being republished thru the Center’s Antiquity Press.

Cutting Cloth, the newsletter from Sandra Ericson’s Center for Pattern Design, was chock full of interesting tidbits. Not only is there a CPD conference slated for October this year at the Art Institute in San Francisco, there is news of a Vionnet exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, running until January 2010. The museum is the recipient of 750 of Madeleine Vionnet’s toiles and all her papers. Sandra says this show is the first time since 1939, when Vionnet’s house closed, that her work has been shown.
Sandra has been studying the work of ground-breaking French couturier Madeleine Vionnet for years. Vionnet is considered the inventor of draping on the bias, and used a half scale dress mannequin to work out her ideas. She was one of the first early 20th century designers to set up a series of ateliers and industrialize her designs
This past January, Diva Emerita MaryBeth from The Stitchery and I were fortunate to be in Palm Springs at back-to-back Claire Shaeffer workshops. We did a 5 day workshop with Sandra Ericson on Vionnet style draping, followed by a Couture Tailoring Techniques in the style of Yves St. Laurent. The draping class was so much fun; Ms. Ericson packed a lot in to each day. In the mornings we were treated to a teaching presentation of Vionnet’s methods and work, then a daily ‘show and tell’ with garments as examples of the day’s topic. Each afternoon we worked on half size dolls (aka My Size Barbies pressed into service as mannequins) draping our own styles using Vionnet’s approaches.


Chronicle Books’ oversize book Madeleine Vionnet, with diagrams and photos is the go-to reference on Vionnet today. For those who are interested in looking at the historical context of her work, there is a lot about her place in the Cubist movement in the book Cubism and Fashion, by Richard Martin, that came out at the time of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1999.

Vionnet lives on, with many of today’s designers taking pages out of her book, sometimes quite literally.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get to Paris before January 2010.

January 27, 2007

Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Fashion,fashion/textile exhibition,Museum — phyllisc @ 4:19 pm

A true Diva highlight of our whirlwind trip to New York this week was a stop to see the Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Rucci is currently the only American designer who has been invited by the Chambre Syndicale to show his designs at the haute couture collections in Paris.  This is no small feat: compliance with the haute couture business model is arduous and costly, and Rucci is the first American since Mainbocher to be so honored.

Rucci’s clothes are not only breathtakingly beautiful but also totally wearable.  There are several dresses that Ann, Gigi and I wanted to wear ourselves – and we all have very different body types.  One gown we all loved is  this jersey gown with a hand knotted bodice.  These are just tubes of silk jersey that are machine sewn together for the skirt, hand sewn together through the hips, and hand knotted for the bodice.  Utter simplicity, yet is this not a thing of beauty?Alabaster hand-knotted silk jersey gownAlabaster hand-knotted silk jersey gown. Chado Ralph Rucci, Haute Couture spring/summer 2003. Collection of Ralph Rucci

A big favorite of mine is this cashmere coat with tone-on-tone hand embroidery in floral motifs. It’s refined yet opulent, and also timeless.

Taupe double-faced cashmere brushed-twill embroidered coat, taupe cashmere, brushed-flannel pants and taupe bodice with alligator strips on netting. Chado Ralph Rucci, Haute Couture fall/winter 2004. Collection of Ralph Rucci

And unless you think Rucci mostly does luxurious pieces for  ladies who lunch, this alligator leather day ensemble looks pretty youthful to me:

Chocolate brown alligator tunic worn with an embroidered silk scarf Chado Ralph Rucci, Haute Couture fall/winter 2004, Collection of Susan Casden. Black silk marquisette skirt trimmed with chocolate brown alligator strips. Ensemble worn with chocolate brown alligator hat, boots by Manolo Blahnik for Ralph Rucci and gloves by Daniel Storto for Ralph RucciChocolate brown alligator tunic worn with an embroidered silk scarf Chado Ralph Rucci, Haute Couture fall/winter 2004, Collection of Susan Casden. Black silk marquisette skirt trimmed with chocolate brown alligator strips. Ensemble worn with chocolate brown alligator hat, boots by Manolo Blahnik for Ralph Rucci and gloves by Daniel Storto for Ralph Rucci

The F.I.T Rucci show is much better as a fashion exhibit than the current Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006 exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.  F.I.T. is, after all, a fashion school so naturally you’d expect their curators to have the kind of display expertise required to properly exhibit fashion.  Several of the evening gowns were suspended from the 20 foot ceiling, so it was easy to peer underneath and see their inner structure.  The lighting was wonderful, and the mannequins, unlike the MFA show, where not headless, which in Boston sort of reduced haute couture to a RTW window display.

There are also *lots* of garments – dozens really – with evening wear, day wear, and accessories deeply represented.  The audience is also more informed than the MFA show, obviously.  When we were there the gallery was crowded with industry professionals and fashion students either sketching or listening to their professor lecture.

In addition to the clothes, there is a small exhibit outside the gallery of Rucci’s original sketches and pieces from his art collection, and it’s great to see his inspiration in the same context as his couture.

And  – the F.I.T. Museum has no entrance fee.  Yes – it’s free!

You must go see it if you’ll be be in NYC this spring.  It’s there till April 14th.

January 18, 2007

Fashion Show – Couture Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Filed under: Couture Techniques,fashion/textile exhibition,Gorgeous Things,Museum — Gorgeous Things @ 8:18 am

Last Friday, Phyllis and Ann had the opportunity to see the Fashion Show, Paris Collections 2006. This show has garnered critical praise from fashion press and fashionistas and, well, criticism from the art critics. It’s a blockbuster regardless of whether you think it belongs in an art museum or not. We went on a Friday afternoon, which is an ideal viewing time. The crowd was moderate, and we were able to get up close and personal with many of the garments.

The Galleries
The exhibit is divided into three conjoined galleries. The first is what we considered “high end ready to wear” looks. Yohji Yamomoto, Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan and Maison Martin Margiela made up this section of the exhibit. These are designers whose connection to the “old time” haute couture houses is mostly through historical references, as opposed to work experience. The feeling that seemed to unify these collections was fashion as theater. The approach was a more highbrow daywear collection.

Yojhi Yamomoto’s collection was emblematic of this. There were a lot of riffs on the Japanese “look”, combined with tartan punk. Ann’s opinion was that the whole looked rather like a mess, and it just didn’t have the panache of a couture collection. Phyllis thought the hats made it look like it was channeling the Belle Epoque, but seen through a 90s minimalist lens. It’s interesting; we’d love to see what the pattern pieces look like. But it was not something that you would want to wear.

Victor and Rolf:
Watch out, this stuff cracks under pressure!
did some very interesting work with metallic fabrications. It looks like they were using silver leaf that they melted onto linen and cottons. Phyllis noted some “blobs” of silver that had fallen onto the skirts of these heavily crinolined dresses. The underlayers were of particular interest too. In several instances, the designers used double-hoop skirts to support the weight of the garments. The metallic overlays looked almost like solder. The under structure of the dresses was fascinating, but there were also some amazing touches on the outer garments. There was one cotton trenchcoat that had bias-tube encased wires that were woven into a trellis pattern to form the collar and lapel. Another trench had an amazing ruffle held in place by buttons. And if you unbuttoned at the top of the collar, it would create a capelet effect. But we noticed that the garments didn’t travel very well – at least the metal coated ones. There were a lot of stress fractures evident in the dresses.

For both of us, the part of the exhibit that worked least well was the Maison Martin Margiela section. Ann thought it looked too precious, with a beer-bottle-cap vest and playing card jerkin. There was one women’s vest that was kind of cool. It was made from fabric flowers. Phyllis asked, “What was that place we went to in New York, with the hats? Manny’s Millinery?” You could get the same effect with a vintage vest, a raft of flowers from Manny’s and a glue gun. Have at it Martha!

There was one very interesting vest, made from fake pearl necklaces and bracelets. The interesting thing was the boned understructure, which formed a cage around the body. The pearls were balanced so the garment would hang appropriately on the body without pulling in one direction or another. But is it couture? Meh.

The final collection in the first gallery was Rochas/Olivier Thyskens. This was the most ready-to-wear looking of the collections. The workmanship was interesting. There were some touches that were quite theatrical, but in a superficial way. There were lots of collars that looked like padded armrests (great for when you’re taking long plane trips, we’re sure). There were also club-chair nailheads, and one dress with quilted, padded hips that reminded us of the Bumsters Vivienne Westwood did back in the 90s. There was also a “Bird on a Wire” dress that had appliqued silhouettes birds on telephone wires on the chiffon overlayer of a long grey dress. Pretty, but not really “couture”, in Ann’s view. Phyllis thought many garments had that 40’s look of superficial adornment. Contrast that with Valentino’s selections, which are equally elaborate and yet the enbellishment is an integral part of the garment.

The second gallery housed two collections: Azzedine Alaia and John Galliano for Dior.

The Alaia collection was black and white, and accentuated by its use of goat and mongolian lamb. There were several dresses and coats whose major features were long haired goat skins. The skirts were particularly interesting, even if you have to be completely curveless to wear them. There was one gown made of shirred silk ribbons that was fascinating to examine. The shirring ended at the side seams, and it looked like there was a sheer underdress holding the structural bones of the garment. The other amazing thing about this dress was how tine the model must have been! Her waist could not have been any larger than about 21 inches. Give that girl a hamburger.

Dior and Galliano, that Funky Little Fashion Troll
To Uranus, and Beyond!
could have been the most disastrous of the bunch. It was punk meets Directoire Period under a blood red sky. But it worked, though it’s something you might have a hard time with at the office. There was one coat that on the runway looked grotesque:
I feel pretty, oh so pretty!  I feel pretty and witty and light!
But with the collar down and no makeup, it was a much more wearable look. Well, wearable if you are going to a high gothic celebration of Dante’s Inferno. The coat was amazing to see though. It was a feat of engineering. It was very heavy leather with all sorts of belts and supports. The hem was a cutaway of skulls embellished with crystal nailheads. It was quite breathtaking.

The third and final gallery housed the most classic of the couture collections: Valentino, Chanel and Christian LaCroix. These are the “old timers”, both in terms of approach taken to the couture and in terms of the designers’ longevity in the Chambre Syndicale. The fabrics were precious, the workmanship was exquisite, and the embellishments were obviously thought out as an integral part of the garment, rather than something that looked “slapped on” (see Thyskens, above) after the fact. From a construction standpoint, examining these garments was most rewarding. We were literally looking under the skirts to see how the garments were made, and how the embroidery and embellishment was done. In several of the Chanel garments, the caption said that there was over 900 hours of embroidery. It was awe inspiring, and if you take a look at the underpinnings of the clothes, you can see that it was done after the dress was made.

The Lacroix collection was matador and infanta inspired.
I am ze Matador!  You are ze bull?
As you would expect from Lacroix, the embroideries were fantastic, the fabrics were breathtaking and the workmanship was, well, Lacroix.

Valentino’s collection was the most red-carpet ready, in Ann’s view. There was an array of gowns, dresses and suits, any of which would look just right at the awards ceremonies. The embellishments on these outfits were just stunning, from cutaway strips of fabric, to crystal pleating, to ribbon embroideries. It was stunning to look at and inspirational in a way that puts “Art to Wear” to shame.
Look into my crystal pleated ball….

The Crowd
Inexplicably, most of the people at the exhibit on Friday were more interested in the (very low quality) runway videos projected on the walls than they were in the very real couture before their eyes. Phyllis thought this was due to the fact that no one had any idea how to view and evaluate an haute couture collection. The only way it could be real for them was to watch it on a screen, just like Mike Teevee in “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”. So there we were, the two of us, taking way too loudly, contrasting and comparing garments, disucssing construction details, kneeling down to look under skirts,
and generally getting as close to the garments as possible without setting off the alarms, while everyone else spoke in hushed tones or eavesdropped on our conversation. You can get quite close (within two feet) without setting off an alarm or having a guard come running over to scold you. Not too many people took advantage of it, but we did!

There were a few snippets of conversation that we overheard that were amusing, too.
“Oliver (sic) Theyskens? Oh yeah, he did some dress for Madonna.”
“I’m going to a 70s party. Go go dresses were 70s, weren’t they?”

Gratifyingly, there were quite a number of younger (college and high school) folks there who looked like they were design students.

But Is it Art?
Well, as Andy Warhol says, “Art is a man’s name” so yes – it is art the same way a silk screen of a Campbell’s soup can can be printed onto a paper dress. Fashion is one of the few art forms that is both High and Low, and the best “Low” form of art in the this exhibit was not Margilea’s self conscious garments but rather the Rochas padded hip dresses that looked like one’s grandmothers upholstery – they were only missing lace anti-macassars on those padded collars.

Also, an understanding of the haute couture business model is crucial to appreciating an exhibit like this. Couture is a loss leader whose main function today is to increase branding, promote ready-to-wear and sell licensed products. In the vast majority of cases, the only people who will ever wear these garments are the runway models. This is a fact that gets lost in the shuffle and the hype. In some ways, the couture is the ultimate irony these days. Amazing stuff that goes nowhere after it takes its 20 meter stroll down the catwalk. If the MFA had been running “The Devil Wears Prada” instead of runway films the audience might be better educated.

But as it is, the exhibit is great fun, and if you are interested in construction, you can get a bird’s eye view of garments and techniques that few will apply and fewer will own. By all means, go to this exhibit before it closes.

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